MLB Draft: UCLA pitcher James Kaprielian a likely first-round pick

This evening, UCLA baseball will likely produce a first-round draft pick for the first time in four years.

Right-handed pitcher James Kaprielian, the Bruins’ Friday ace for the past two seasons, is projected to go off the board early in the MLB draft, which starts today at 4 p.m. PT. As a junior, the 6-foot-4 prospect led the Pac-12 with 114 strikeouts, and combined with closer David Berg for the first no-hitter in UCLA history.

Teams had expressed interest in drafting Kaprielian (10-4, 2.03) in the first two rounds in 2012, but Kaprielian product was set on attending UCLA. He was eventually taken in the 40th round by the Seattle Mariners, and became a reliever on the Bruins’ 2013 national title team as a freshman.

UCLA coach John Savage said that Kaprielian was somewhat underrecruited coming out Beckman High in Irvine, calling him a “football guy” who slipped through the cracks. That he wasn’t a big factor on the travel circuit suppressed his stock too.

“There wasn’t as much hype around him,” Savage said. “But we knew that he potentially could be a weekend starter. We saw his projection and his upside. We knew that this guy could pretty special. …We knew what we had.”

Based on numerous mock drafts, Kaprielian appears to be a lock for the first round. He is projected to go No. 10 overall by Sports Illustrated, No. 12 by ESPN, and No. 16 by Baseball America and

The last time a UCLA player was drafted in the first round was 2011, when pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer went first and third overall, respectively.

Here’s a list of all the Bruins ranked in Baseball America’s list of top-500 prospects:

Eventual draft positions updated and italicized

No. 19 — RHP James Kaprielian — 16th overall, Yankees
No. 133 — SS Kevin Kramer — 62nd overall, Pirates
No. 190 — RHP Cody Poteet — 116th overall, Marlins
No. 265 — RHP Tucker Forbes — 906th overall, Giants
No. 450 — RHP David Berg — 173rd overall, Cubs

A good chunk of UCLA’s signing class could also leave for the draft. Left-handed pitcher Kolby Allard could be drafted ahead of Kaprielian, while righty Peter Lambert has a chance to be picked by the second round.

Justin Hooper, another highly-touted lefty, recently confirmed his desire to sign with the Bruins instead of going pro out of De La Salle High in Concord, Calif.

No. 18 — LHP Kolby Allard, San Clemente HS — 14th overall, Braves
No. 39 — LHP Justin Hooper, De La Salle HS — 751st overall, Brewers
No. 48 — RHP Peter Lambert, San Dimas HS — 44th overall, Rockies
No. 52 — C Lucas Herbert, San Clemente HS — 54th overall, Braves
No. 53 — RHP Kyle Molnar, Aliso Niguel HS — 761st, Cardinals
No. 87 — 3B Tyler Nevin, Poway HS — 38th overall, Rockies
No. 488 — C Michael Benson, Huntington Beach HS — 1007th, Rockies